Love: The anti-romantic comedy
From the moment you spot the thumbnail for Love on Netflix India, you know the show is going to be long and addictive, like most shows that Judd Apatow, its writer and producer, is a part of. The thumbnail shows a couple sitting awkwardly atop the back of a car, the girl looking slightly dishevelled, hand resting on the bespectacled guy’s shoulder. He looks as hapless as she is uninterested.
With his hands folded across his chest, he is a Woody Allen-esque nerd, thick framed glasses and all, while she can easily be mistaken for the cool girl. It seems like an obvious mismatch.
Over the past two decades, Apatow has built a reputation as a master of comedy. In the 1990s, he won an Emmy as a writer on The Ben Stiller Show and then co-wrote, co-directed and co-produced the cult show Freaks And Geeks, which launched the careers of comic actors such as James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. In the 2000s, he produced a string of comedy films, including, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad. He is also a co-producer of Girls, the 2012 show created by Lena Dunham that was heralded as a key part of a new wave in American mainstream television. Girls traces the lives of 20-somethings in the city, but rejects character stereotypes and offers raw, in-your-face narratives and characters loaded with insecurities. You will in equal parts laugh and cringe and face-palm with them.
In the same way, Love’s two principal characters, Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust), meet at their lowest points, un-showered and dirty, one early morning. Mickey is broke and wallet-less while buying a much-needed coffee after a terrible night, and a heartbroken Gus is getting Gatorade the morning after he breaks up with his girlfriend, who cheated on him. He offers to help Mickey, and she unabashedly takes advantage of his kindness by adding on a pack of cigarettes to the bill.
This is not their cue to become best friends or lovers. But in a delightfully uncomfortable 4-minute scene that follows, Apatow gives us an awkward, pause-filled, longer-than-expected walk as the pair heads to Mickey’s apartment. It’s reminiscent of the walks Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy take in Richard Linklater’s Before series of films. Through the 4 minutes, you can feel the effort that two strangers make at keeping a conversation going. And you feel relief in spurts as you discover their shared sense of humour.
Only in the seventh episode (Season 1 has 10 episodes) does the lead pair go on a real date; till then there are only vague hints that a romance might bloom. They’re both still coming into their own, however—and the process isn’t pretty.
Despite being the apparent nerd, Gus plays the bass surprisingly well and gets along swimmingly with strangers at a party. He makes and maintains diverse friends—from old neighbours with Dumbledore-beards to college girls experimenting with their sexuality. But Mickey, with her better looks and outward confidence, isn’t half as sociable, still setting fire to burnt bridges and getting drunk to relive her party-girl days as some sort of coping mechanism. They’re both stuck in frustrating jobs: Gus is a tutor to a bratty child actor in a TV show while Mickey is in a seemingly comfortable job as programme manager at a radio station. While Gus, who looks stressed out, patiently tries to make the most of his situation, Mickey is constantly and actively making hers worse.
Love, much like Girls and Freaks And Geeks, is as slow as it is engaging. It is also as pointless and frustrating in parts, and all over the place in others, just like life, and love, are. And this is probably why you will give in to Netflix’s post-play feature and let Love work its frustrating, yet addictive, magic.
Watch it before Season 2 comes around in 2017.